BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/08 Nov) – Mayor Ferdinand Amante, Jr. ordered late Thursday night a forced evacuation in the city’s coastal and riverside communities, following a joint meeting with representatives from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), Project NOAH, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).
“The team from PAGASA and Project NOAH from Manila, briefed us that rains would intensify at around 5 in the morning and reach its worst downpour between 8 and 10 in the morning. With this information, forced evacuation is necessary for the safety of our residents along the coastal areas and riverside barangays,” said Amante.
As of 10 p.m. Thursday, data from the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council showed a total of 105 families from six barangays had voluntarily moved to three evacuation centers.
The mayor’s order, issued at 10 p.m., covered 25 out of 86 barangays: Agao, Agusan Pequeno, Aupagan, Baan Km3, Baan Riverside, Bading, Banza, Bit-os, Bonbon, Bunahangin, Fort Poyohon, Golden Ribbon, Lumbocan, Mahay, Mahogany, Maon, Masao, Maug, Obrero, Ong Yiu, Pagatpatan, Pangabugan, San Ignacio, San Vicente and Tagabaca.
The mayor said they only have an eight-hour window for the forced evacuation of residents. Public storm warning signal number 2 was raised over Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Surigao del Norte as of 11 a.m. Thursday.
“Our worst enemy here would be the wind and water brought by the rains. They can say that we might be overacting in our decision but it is better to be safe than sorry. It is better to commit error on the safe side especially when human lives are at stake,” he said.
Robert Quinto, senior weather specialist of PAGASA said water levels along the rivers and especially on coastal areas should be monitored.
“We expect storm surges along the coastal areas and water levels along the river to rise as we expect heavy rainfall in the next few hours. If we try to look at the satellite images from Project NOAH, we can see parts of the red area which indicate heavy rains to pass by Caraga region and Butuan City,” said Quinto.
Quinto, who arrived Monday from Manila to check on the Doppler radar in the town of Hinatuan in Surigao del Sur also added that their recommendation considered the first-hand knowledge of LGUs in their respective areas since historical data on flooding should also be considered.
Liza Mazo, OCD regional director, said the forced evacuation is a good move on the part of the local government of Butuan because given its limited resources, “they will have sufficient time to move people out of danger areas along the riverside and our coastlines.”
Abner Caga, regional director, PIA Caraga said the mayor’s decision was crucial because the water level of the Agusan River might rise faster than expected.
Caga said the order for forced evacuation might cause inconvenience but it will save lives should the worst case scenario happen.
“I grew up near the Agusan River and with the rainfall together with the water coming from Agusan del Sur, it might be too late if the order will be made tomorrow morning,” said Caga. (Erwin Mascarinas / MindaNews)